The federal government’s throne speech Wednesday sounds like it was aimed right at boosting Fredericton’s economy and that’s good news, says Susan Holt, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
“I was certainly pleased to see them indicate investment into sectors that are really Fredericton’s bread and butter, specifically aerospace, research and development, science and technology strategy, clean energy technology, the forest industry,” she said Wednesday.
“It’s heartening to see a recognition of investment in the sectors we’re building our city on and are certainly critical to our success.”
Holt said she also liked the reference to commercializing graduate research and bringing products to market.
But she also said she’s looking forward to getting more details, perhaps in today’s federal budget.
“There are some great sounding concepts in here,” she said about the throne speech.
“I am looking forward to the budget to see where and how they put their money where their mouth is.”
Holt said the throne speech statement that small- and medium-size businesses are the engines of the Canadian economy is true and that removing regulations and barriers to growth sounds nice.
“Again, I would like to see how and what steps the government plans to take to achieve that,” she said. “What does that mean?”
The chamber also favours strengthening the recognition of foreign credentials, she said. Immigrant doctors and engineers need to be able to contribute to the economy, she said.
Holt also liked the idea of keeping tax rates low and competitive.
But it isn’t clear if that is the GST or direct taxation on business or both, she said.
But Holt said a concern is that in one breath the federal government talks about completing the second year of the economic plan and then later saying that stimulus spending will stop by March 2011.
Does that mean projects that aren’t done by then won’t be completed? she said. She said she hopes it means projects will be pushed through on time and all the stimulus money will be spent before then.
“It is one thing to see that we’re starting to recover,” said Holt.
“It is another thing to be in a fully recovered market.”
Holt also said chamber members are more interested in increasing the number of available child-care spaces than boosting the amount of the universal child-care benefit, as suggested in the throne speech.
Charles Cirtwill, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said it’s interesting that the throne speech talked about the lack of skilled workers in the country.
“To my mind, it is the No. 1 biggest problem facing New Brunswick,” he said.
Cirtwill said an institute study a few months ago found that in 35 years New Brunswick will have a shortage of almost 100,000 workers out of a workforce of about 400,000.
He said he would like to see Ottawa spend some of the billions of dollars of stimulus money not yet allocated on that problem.
That could include helping older workers stay in the workforce full time or part time and getting rid of the clawback on the guaranteed income supplement and on pensions that keeps skilled workers out of the workplace, said Cirtwill.
The universal child-care benefit should be doubled or tripled and the provinces should also get involved to allow more family members to work, he said.
“It is nowhere near large enough,” said Cirtwill.